5 Books to read in travel time

source: unknown

Christmas is around and so are holiday & travel plans. Travel plans completely de-stresses me and fills me up with lot of comforting experiences and good memories. Its like earthen pot from which you empty the old water, rinse it and fill it up with fresh new water.

And which travel plan can be complete without a book. None. I completely love the idea of stimulating my mind with some specific varieties of books. I do not force myself with current best books as the world of books started way before I was born. So there is lot of catch up to do for me anyway.

Autobiographies: I love digging deep into autobiographies of people i look up to. The de-stressed mind and serene views (which I like to surround myself generally when i am travelling) helps me visualise their stories and experiences better. I could totally be sitting in a bus crossing beautiful forests or mountains while eating the delicacies served in the biographies and actually ponder of how their life would have actually looked like for them.

The autobiography of Lee Iacocca is one of my all time favorite. Buy it here!

Motivational: This section is classified as self-help as well but I prefer sticking to the motivational kinds. I love reading motivational books about people, experiences & stories. The kind of books generally makes me reflect on life.

Recent best motivational book I read was “When breath becomes air” by Paul Kalanithi. Buy it here!

Drama: And who doesn’t love a little bit of drama in life. Whether its through book or through theater. And such books generally get me times on different thought tangent. Remember the time when we all read Eat Pray Love and got into thinking of this life and how we stop ourselves from free from our past. Which even at the point when I read, I didn’t understand quiet well. It took me some time to get around it. Buy it here!

Poem: I am not very poetic person but its a good idea to have them handy especially while travelling. The poem lets you put color of words while enjoying scenic view. I recently came across a new poet, Mausam Pandya, who has put together her compilation of poems. Buy it here!

Adventure: Adventure books actually make me want to jump out of my seat and get going. And Tin-Tin series can just do that. It makes me want to travel to Morocco or Libya or Tunisia and probably get into a whirl wind of such adventures. Btw there is a wiki page on list of locations mentioned in Tin-Tin books. Buy it here!

I would love to know your favorite travel books.

 

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Things to do in monsoon

Monsoon! Beautiful wheather, cool breeze, droplets on face, jump in poodle, hot chai with pakoda, cozy blanket, intriguing book to read and endless lazing time. Some of the emotions that surfaces at the instant when we think of monsoon. Its by far the best season for me, untill its Monday and I have to go to work. lol.

So with weekends coming up, lets do a round up of things to do in monsoon:

1. Long drive

Long drives are essential in monsoon. When it showers, I like to take an early morning drive to Marine Drive. Its one of the most beautiful place in Mumbai. And what better when it rains. My mind and heart gets filled with multiple emotions and thoughts. Sometimes artistic, romantic, thoughful, deep, blank. And marine drive is just a place to be!

2. Take short vacation but in multiple doses

Take a short weekend trip to nearby places and stay put with your friend/ family or just yourself. I like to take a stay at Bohemiyan Blue, located in Alibaug. Its a quick short ride of 3-4 hours and you are in mini vacation heaven. Lounge at the cafe and eat yummy hummus platter and sip on cocktail while lazing on hammock. Its a good place to bring in your boho vibe and get some guitar if you are into it. Or like me, just carry some books and comfort clothes for read and sleep marathon.

3. Pick a new/ old hobby

I find monsoon very rhythmic in nature. It helps me pick something new or old. Hobbies for me comes as season. So when i am pursuing a hobby, I’ll keep doing it. And then after a point find something new. Rain brings the freshness in air and mind to completely start something new or pick something already tried that I love. This one time I picked up craft work. This season I am into sewing. You might get poetic and feel an itch to scribble.

Stare game with the trees in the woods

 

Travel guide for Cameron Highlands, Malaysia

 

Cameron Highland is a high estate located just about 200 km from Kuala Lumpur. Being one of the highest region in Malaysia, this place has cool weather and charming tea estates. The bungalows, gardens, and golf course are the reminiscence of the British colonisers who would come to the highland for relaxation. Check further post for things to do in Cameron Highlands which can be wrapped up in about 2-3 days if you are on a roll.

SEE

Gunung Brinchang: Ideal way to start morning at Cameron is with hike to Gunung Brinchang, which is mainly a road walk and is not very tiring due to the lovely weather. The panoramic view at the peak which is at 6666ft and is worth every step. I had the opportunity to be among the clouds and aah that feeling of mist on my cheeks. You may hike up on your own or opt for an guide which is more recommendable.

Mossy Forest: After the hike at Gunung Brinchang, Mossy forest was our next destination.  Every plant and branch is covered with moss. The forest gives us the feeling of jungles from King Kong movie – dense, mossy all over and creepers everywhere. But there were no reptiles or insects and I presume its mainly because of the therapeutic plants which grow in abundance here (the Cajeput tree from which famous Tiger balm is made, grows here).  One can also spot Pitcher plants in abundance here, but do not touch them as some variety of this plant are carnivorous. You will be lucky to spot Giant Rafflesia, an endangered flower which claims to be the largest flower in world, in this forest. Make sure to go only with a local guide or you may get lost in the forest.

Tea Plantation: Cameron highland has excellent weather for tea plantations here and ‘Boh‘ at Sungai Palas is an ideal estate to breathe in some tea vibes here (also it is the biggest). I find tea estates very romantic as there is vastness of the estate which is so green and the chill in the air makes my bare shoulder tinkle. At Boh tea plantation we took a tour of the tea factory and then got ourselves comfortable  to sip some lovely tea with sumptuous little cakes. Make sure to buy little tea boxes for yourself and friends and family.

Starwberry farm: Raju’s strawberry farm seems to be pretty famous as it was confirmed by a local person and various portals in my research – and since its strawberries it couldn’t go wrong for us in anyway. Go around and pick strawberries with your lovelies and then enjoy the joys of your pluck. Though I found this to be a bit expensive activity which costed 35RMs (for 1/2kg I guess). But I think the price is more for the experience than for the strawberries. You can find quite some local fresh fruits and vegetables shops very close to Raju’s strawberry farm.

Bee farm/ reptile farm: There are many farms that breed bees and other reptiles as well. Its a good place to look at gorgeous butterflies and vibrant snakes and hedgehogs at such farms. Its a fun activity for a reptile lover or to show the kids around.

Cactus Valley: Walk along the lovely terraces to see the varieties of flowers and vegetables and off course cactus. They are all in abundance and will stimulate all your sensory organs. I went little crazy at the site of cactus varieties.

Robinson Waterfalls: Jungle trail number 9 leads to Robinson Waterfalls – a serene place to relax and soak in the air. These are impressive falls especially in rain time (September to January) and its an off beat trail as well.

Kea Farm Market: Take a walk at this farmer’s market and buy yourself some fresh fruits. If you are in strawberry season, then you’ll find them everywhere while they will be cheaper at such farmer’s market.

Tip: For about 40RMs/ 8 hours there are motorcycles available to go around the city and relax at our own pace. Though I wouldn’t recommend taking them when going to any uphill areas. The engines might not be powerful enough to take you through high elevations.

EAT

Steamboat cuisine: Best way to enjoy this dish would be to go brunching with friends and family – because its like potluck. You wont regret trying this dish. This dish has variations in various Asian countries such as Hot Pot in China. You may try this at Cameron Organic Produce Steamboat Restaurant and Ok Tuck Restaurant.

Steamed corns and sweet potatoes: How awesome are these to just keep nibbling while roaming in streets of Cameron and that chilly weather. I was amazed to see the amount of sweet potatoes sold and consumed here.

Ye Olde Smokehouse: If you are craving for some smoked food, then this place is right for you as it serves some good meat.

Curry House: Malaysia is a home to many Indians (mainly Tamilians) hence Indian Masala Chai was need of the hour to let my taste buds feels closer to home. This is also a good place to try some kebabs and other nibblers.

Uncle Chow’s Kopitam: Cool hangout place to snack and sip coffee among the locals visiting this place.

Fruits: I love trying local fruits while I am visiting the country. It gives me good insight of the vegetation and natures’ delight in form of fruits. Must try fruits at Cameron highlands are strawberries, langsat, red and white guavas (jambu batu), rose apple (jambu merah), and love fruit which I shopped at the Kea farm market

SLEEP

There are tons of budget hotels and BnBs in Tanha Rata, Cameron Highlands. Just take a walk in the area and try your luck at multiple inexpensive stays. As most of these places either shut or change names so its difficult to keep track of them by their names. For stay options on a little expensive side (which isn’t really very expensive either) try Copthorne Hotel, Century Pines Resort, and Lakehouse Hotel. I really liked some Airbnb options such as this, this, and this.

We stayed in Farm View apartment which is hosted by Dennis Hong and I must say it was a delight staying at this Airbnb. The house is really amazing with lovely farm view. The house had all possible things available for tourist to live in comfortably. Dennis has a really interesting way of handing over the keys to its customer and I stop at that for you to experience it yourself, if you happen to stay here.

Tip: While selecting the stay options you either choose hotels in Tanha rata area which is like the main area to hang out and spend evenings or hotels in Brinchang area which is closer to tea estates and peaks and really quiet area. As the distance between the two is almost about 5kms, both areas give a little different feel.

Best season: Since Cameron Highlands is mountainous, its really cool for most of the season. To enjoy cool breezy weather January to April is a good time and to enjoy sunny weather May to July is a good time. Spetember onwards there are heavy rainfall making the temperature dip even below 10C during night – having said that flora and fauna is at its best during this time.

Here’s a little virtual tour of our trip along with the tourist map:

Hat, simple sandal and map is all I need

Elevated roads and green all around

Beautiful cacti

Akhil being silly at the cactus farm

A table for two

Lavender farm

View of Boh Tea Plantation – till your eyes can see

Vibrant butterfly

View from Gunung Brinchang peak at 6666ft – those are clouds

Waiting for clouds to touch my face

Mossy forest

Enjoying footpath golf outside a cafe

Street food at Kea farm market

Strawberry farm just took it all literally

Check out other posts on our Malaysia tour.

Quick trip to Delhi

Breath taking view of Humayun’s Tomb

While there are many things on my must do list in Delhi, I highly recommend attending a wedding in Delhi. Its a-mazing. The energy, colors, ceremonies, madness and parties are highly recommended for anybody who likes to be high on life. I recently had one such opportunity, and I had gala time. But this post is totally about what you were expecting – things to do while in Delhi.

Being in Delhi is a different feeling altogether. Its a mix of culture, tradition, old roads, old bazaars, heritage monuments blending with big lanes, high end stores, and huge ‘kothis’. I recently did a trip to Delhi and had a beautiful day to spend there. And I did what any art lover would do, open the map (ahem phone map) and just stretched my hand to hire rickshaw to take me places.

Being at historical places, is like being in candy land for me. Beautiful edifice that has been constructed for eternity. But to complete the crazy historical journey in one and half day I had to pick and choose places to visit. Here’s my list:

1. Humayun’s Tomb: This is a edifice that was built for burial of the Indian Mughal Emporer Humayun after his death in 1572 AD is an UNESCO World Heritage Site. The complex encompasses the main tomb of the Emperor Humayun, which houses the graves of his wife, son, and also his great-great-grandson as well as numerous other subsequent Mughals. The complex also has beautiful gardens that are perfect place to bask in light sun. I would love to cherish some mangoes and goose while marveling at this beauty. Note-if you are a history lover, hire a guide as the stories about the place are worth listening to.

2. Red Fort: The magnificent fort was once a residence for an Indian Mughal ruler which also served as capital for the Mughal empire in India. Fort, built in 1648, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Red Fort Delhi is a mesmerizing piece of architecture, lying on the banks of Yamuna River, whose water was used for the moat that surround the wall. Every independence day, the Prime minister of the country hoist the national flag at the Red Fort and the national parade is performed.

3. Jama Masjid: The name literally translates to ‘the world reflecting mosque’ and it indeed it reflects a world in itself. Any day a tour to Jama Masjid will make you witness thousands of people from different parts of world. Its a huge mosque with capacity to accomodate nearly 25,000 people in its courtyard itself. The brilliant use of red sandstones and white marbles in the entire masjid’ s architecture and generous spread of floral motifs, wines and inlay work makes it very attractive. It also reminds of the regal time of Mughal dynasty while they ruled in India. This mosque is also very similar to Jama Masjid mosque in Agra.

4. India Gate: The India Gate was part of the work of the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC), which came into existence in December 1917 for building war graves and memorials to soldiers killed in the First World War. Under the India Gate ‘Amar Jyot Jawan’, which literally means immortal flame of soldiers, is erected with four urns on side.

5. Rashtrapati Bhavan (President’s House): This is an iconic structure located on ‘Rajpath’, which is one of the most filmed road in the capital city. The Rajpath is a wide long road with India Gate standing tall at one end and Rashtrapati Bhavan on the other. So carry your high resolution camera to capture the other monument from one at a distance of 4 kms. Rashtrapati Bhavan is India’s President’s House spread across 320 acres with 340 rooms in it. Mighty right! The awesome thing visitors are allowed to the see some parts of the House and the Mughal garden. However, one needs to apply for it in advance. This is something I found out much late in my tour. But make sure you read their guidelines carefully and don’t miss it.

6. Lotus temple: This is Bahai’s house of worship located in Delhi, being one of the eight such houses around the world (9th in Turkmenistan has been destroyed). The temple is a true piece of art as the structure has been built in shape of a lotus with 27 free-standing marble-clad “petals” arranged in clusters of three to form nine sides. About 2,500 people can sit and pray inside this lotus at the same time. It has beautiful landscaping around the temple and nice place to relax and soak up the day.

7. Akshardham (Swaminarayan temple): I always make a point to visit Swaminarayan Temples wherever they are for they, I believe, are the only temples to be constructed in most recent century but has art and architecture detailing that was done centuries ago in India. And Akshardham is no exception to that. Brilliant structure and unique detailing signified from Indian mythology. The material used in the structure is so logical. For example, brown stone is layed out as flooring outside the temple with motifs made of white stones. However, apart from the artistic approach of colors, the white stones are good to walk on during the crazy summers as they absorb less heat. Apart from the structure, the story narrated about Shri Swaminarayan is really something to ponder upon.

There are many places in this city worth visiting and I am sure I will be blessed with many opportunities to visit this place again and again.

Lets take a visual tour together of my trip:

Enjoying blissfulness

Me looking petite at one of the four gates of Humayun’s Tomb spread out in four directions 

Nai-ka Tomb which literally means barber’s tomb. Notice little blue cap on right is part of restoration work going on at the moment. Waiting to see this place restored in all its glory. I will come soon.

Octagonal shaped Isa Khan’s Tomb surrounded by beautiful octagonal shaped garden

Peeking in the glorious past

Indian flag hoisted on Red Fort

Majestic walls of Red Fort with moat around it

Sun set view from Jama Masjid

While we spent time at Jama Masjid experience the glory of past

Standing tall – India Gate

India Gate canopy lit up at night

Grandeur President’s home

India Gate’s view when standing outside President’s home with a distance of 4km in between

India’s Prime Miniter’s office #namo

Beautiful structures and skylines

Akshardham in its complete glory

Marvelous work of architecture at Lotus Temple

One of the lotus petal facades

Green gardens spread around Lotus temple

The food out here is so orgasmic that it deserves a dedicated post and if you are in Delhi there are few must visit places for shopoholics. So watch this space for more.

 

Bohemyan Blue, Alibaug

Entrance of the cafe

This is a new section that I have been meaning to start, for a simple reason – my love for cafes. There is something so soothing and so comfy about cafes. Cafes can be romantic and can be so solitary. Cafes can be place to laze and place to amaze. Cafes can be a place to take break and can be a place to work. Cafes can be a place to bump into new people and can be a place to meet old friends. Cafes can be a place to have hear-felt discussions and can be a place to break commotions. Cafes can be a place to try new pies and can be a place to savor all time favorite pies. Cafes can be a place to just sit and write your heart out and can be a place to shut up and listen your mind out.

About the cafe:

Bohemyan Blue cafe has a soothing feeling as its been built inside the bungalow with the proud owners living on the 1st floor of the property. The entrance welcomes with lovely clay toads and pots and lots of greenery around. The property is surrounded by big trees providing natural shade and comfort. I did spot some DIY around – they have antique sewing machine converted into table to dine upon. One thing that I found here in abundance, apart from trees, warmth and happy staff smiles, were hammocks. I mean literally they are everywhere, giving a complete “susegat” vibe.

Bohemyan Blue houses a cafe, a shop and a stay. They have “villas”, which are about two minutes walking distance from the cafe. The villas are basically the luxury tents with loads of greenery around. The entire place stands true to its name – Bohemian. You will site lots of cotton fabrics with Indian motifs spread around either as table runners or as bed sheets or as curtains or as mere decor. Giving the homely feeling to the entire space. One of the draws in the villas is the open air bathroom, its like bathing with nature.

The food has a good blend of Indian spices with fusion recipes. My most favorite was raw papaya with carrot salad which was tossed with sesame oil and roasted peanuts – the flavors were infusing my mind and heart. I also tried some Thai curry with rice, lemonade and home made malai kulfi.

Their story:

The cafe is the owners house which has been converted into a cafe and shop. From my brief interaction with one of the owner I got to know that the cafe was his wife’s dream. Mr. Albert mentioned to me that about 25 years ago his wife, who I gathered is an artist, had told him that she would like to start her own cafe. And here they were fulfilling that dream together. It was really touching.

 

Virtual tour of the cafe:

Front side of the bungalow. Notice the little clay toads adorned on the roof

Entry way to shop with some cafe tables outside

Cafe set up in soothing pergola at the back of the bungalow

Villa for stay. Lovely combination of cotton sheets and straw thatched roof making it all cozy from sun.

Lovely rocking chair made in their wood-shop. Yes, they make most of their furniture.

Villas and cottages for stay

Another cafe near the villas. What a lovely touch of marigold flowers.

Cute shop which is filled with lovely cotton clothes, hats, breezy dresses, artifacts, umbrellas, candle stands, etc.

There are pretty flowers almost everywhere. Feels so welcoming.

Do you know of such unique cafes’ that you think I should visit? Please do tell me.

 

Basic Hyderabadi phrases

hyderabad

I love travelling to places without too many bookings. It allows me to make choices on spot. Translates into freedom. But there are some things i also like to prepare for and go. Specially when the new land has a new language.

Learning some key phrases comes in very handy while communicating with locals, shop-owners, asking for direction, etc.

Here is a lovely little video created by Ixigo if you travelling to Hyderabad.

Learn and Enjoy!

Source: 1 | 2

Things to do at Changi airport (Singapore)

 

Singapore Changi airport

Layover is usually the most boring aspect of travel. I recently had a trip to Thailand and had a layover at Changi airport in Singapore. I was dreading and almost cursing myself for booking a flight with 10 hours of layover. If you travel often, you would know 10 hours is a long time to kill at an airport.

And then we landed at Changi. Firstly the airport is huge with 3 terminals which is connected by a shuttle train. Yes, a train specially to travel between the terminals. Now most of the airports do have shopping options to kill your time. However, at Changi they sure do entertain in various ways. Each terminal is different with unique themed gardens, lounging areas, snooze areas, fun zone, pool to soak in, theater, game zone, and some more crazy tech experiences.

At the end of my trip I wanted to spend more time at the airport and experience it all.

Shuttle train to travel between terminals

Shuttle train to travel between terminals (my postcard from singapore)

Orchid garden

Orchid garden

Orchid garden

Orchid garden

Pretty china wares to shop

Pretty china wares to shop

Soak up in the pool and Jacuzzi for a small price with a complimentary drink by your side - layover just became so awesome

Soak up in the pool and Jacuzzi for a small price with a complimentary drink by your side – layover just became so awesome

Butterfly garden

Butterfly garden

Butterfly garden

Butterfly garden

my original plan to kill time

my original plan to kill time

The traditional Kaya toast and coffee as breakfast combination

The traditional Kaya toast and coffee as breakfast combination – must try

Theater inside the terminal

Theater inside the terminal

Sunflower garden

Sunflower garden – very soothing place to read

Free Singapore city tour in shuttle bus. You only need a valid Singapore visa. I missed out on this one.

Free Singapore city tour in shuttle bus. You only need a valid Singapore visa. I missed out on this one.

Game zone - they give you a X-box as well

Game zone – there’s an X-box as well

Blue lagoon garden - do make a wish in the wishing pond

Blue lagoon garden – do make a wish in the wishing pond

I am definitely coming back for a layover!